Thursday, October 19, 2017

TO SOULS IN AGONY ~ SPURGEON

"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of Hell got hold upon me.  I found trouble and sorrow.  Then called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech You, deliver my soul... You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling." 

Psalm 116:3-4,8


The great trouble which is here described very probably happened to David long after he had been a Believer. He had been living the life of faith, perhaps, for years, in a calm, happy and quiet manner. But by-and-by he met with outward tribulation and not a little of inward conflict. At some time or other it generally happens to a Believer, between the setting out at the wicket gate and the crossing of the last river, that he endures a great fight of afflictions. My observation leads me to notice that those who begin with rough times frequently have a smooth path afterwards, while others, whose first experience was very sunny and peaceful, meet with fierce conflicts farther on.

Let Believers, therefore, not count upon immunity from trouble, but let them reckon upon sufficient Grace for it. Let them believe that God's choicest letters of love are sent to us in black-edged envelopes. We are frightened at the envelope, but inside, if we know how to break the seal, we shall find riches for our souls.

Great trials are the clouds out of which God gives great mercies. Very frequently, when the Lord has an extraordinary mercy to send to us, He employs His rough and grizzled horses to drag it to the door. The smooth rivers of ease are usually navigated by little vessels filled with common commodities, but a huge galleon loaded with treasure traverses the deep seas. Let the children of God learn from this passage in David's experience that their best resort in trouble is prayer. When the sorrows of death compass you, pray! When the pains of Hell get hold upon you, pray! When you find trouble and sorrow, pray! Everything else which prudence and wisdom suggest is to be done in a time of difficulty, but none of these things are to be relied upon by themselves.

Many a troubled conscience feels the sorrows of death. That is to say he is the subject of griefs similar to those which beset men on their dying beds. I have passed through this state, myself, and I shall therefore describe it the more feelingly. What are the sorrows of death? One of the sorrows of a sinner's death is the retrospect. The dying sinner looks back and sees nothing in his life that yields him comfort. He could wish that the day had been darkness in which it was said that a child was born into the world, for he feels that his existence has been a blank and, worse than that, an insult to God and the cause of misery to himself. He cannot see a bright or hopeful spot in his whole history.

So, too, the man truly awakened weeps over a dreadful past and laments because all is evil and the very things he once gloried in are tarnished. He sees that to have been sin, which before he thought to have been righteousness! And he bemoans himself, saying within his heart, "Would God I had never been born." Many an awakened man has said, as John Bunyan did, that he wished he had been a frog or a toad, or a venomous serpent sooner than have been a man to have lived as he had lived. Are you feeling, dear Friend, or have you ever felt that sorrow of death? Some of us have felt it keenly.

The man lies tossing to and fro upon his deathbed and all his glory and beauty are gone. The bloom of health has departed from him. He is a very different man from what he was in the days of his agility and vigor—and he knows it. So is it with the sinner—he feels the pining sickness of sin consuming him as the moth consumes a garment. His moisture is turned into the drought of summer. His glory is as a faded flower and the excellency of his flesh, in which he boasted and said that he was no worse than others and, perhaps, was even better, is now passed away. The Spirit, when He blows upon man, finding all flesh to be grass, withers it all up—and so He destroys the glory of man's estate and makes his excellency decay till the man is sick to death of himself.
But now the cold chill of death has come upon all his powers and he hears Christ, in mercy, saying, "Without Me you can do nothing. No man can come to Me unless the Father, which has sent Me, draw him." A man experiences a dreadful paralysis in his soul when he is really and thoroughly awakened. The Spirit of God is making sure work of his conversion!
Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon 
Sermon Vol. 21, #1216 (Excerpt)


Thursday, October 12, 2017

HOW TO TALK TO ATHEISTS AND SKEPTICS ABOUT CHRIST

Michael Horton

Chances are, at least one of your friends or family members doesn’t believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. Here are some suggestions for communicating the most central Christian claim to others

In the philosophers’ forum in Athens, Paul began by telling his Epicurean and Stoic audience that they misunderstood who God is and how he relates to the world. God is neither irrelevant and aloof from the world (contra the Epicureans) nor part of the world (contra the Stoics). Though he doesn’t depend on the world, the world depends on him and God is concerned and involved with the world he has created, governs, and saves.

It’s an argument for Christian theism, showing unbelievers how they cannot even live consistently with their own assumptions unless the Triune God known in Scripture is the source of all reality.

You can also begin the conversation by sharing your own experience—the difference Christ has made in your life, as long as you realize that this isn’t the gospel itself. Or you can go straight to the resurrection and work more inductively, from the most particular claim to its broader implications. Especially to the extent that one has been shaped by the naturalistic presuppositions that dominate academic culture in our day, a claim like the resurrection will be ruled impossible at the start.

Miracles do not happen because they cannot happen: that’s the a priori assumption of the deistic/atheistic worldview of today’s Epicureans. If you’re reasoning with modern “Stoics”—basically, a pantheistic worldview, the assumption will be that everything is divine and miraculous; so the idea of special divine interventions like the resurrection will seem just as foreign to New Agers as to New Atheists.

Again, you can begin by exposing the irrationality and inconsistency of these worldviews and then discuss the resurrection within the context of a biblical worldview or begin with the resurrection claim.

One strength of the latter approach is that the resurrection, as an historical event, disproves their worldview. Here is an event that actually happened, which their worldview cannot account for. Even if they do not accept the argument, much less trust in Christ, this can at least help to weaken their excuse that the biblical claim is nothing more than private assertion or experience, unaccountable to public debate. 

It can help to expose to our friend the fact that he or she is “suppressing the truth in unrighteousness”—that is, no longer rejecting the claim because of reason but because of the same irrational act of mere will that he or she had attributed to believers.

As in the account of his raising of Lazarus (John 11), Jesus may ask us to roll away stones, but only he can raise the dead. The apostles not only testified to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus but reasoned with Jews and Greeks. They gave arguments and evidence.

At the same time, the gospel itself is “the power of God unto salvation…” Romans 1:16, and it has to be proclaimed. 



Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido, California), host of the White Horse Inn, national radio broadcast, and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He is the author of many books, including The Gospel-Driven LifeChristless ChristianityPutting Amazing Back Into GraceThe Christian Faith, and Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story

Many of his writings are found here


Friday, October 6, 2017

FORGETFULNESS IS UNBIBLICAL ~ Voddie Baucham



"If you could forget your sins, you would never be able to testify to the goodness of God. Amen?

We ought to be broken over our sins because when we sin we create a DVD, HD, blue ray picture in our mind that will be there for years and years and years.

Well I'll just take the drugs and I'll make it go away.

Do you hear how ridiculous that sounds?

There are things that we do that we don't forget. 

How many testimonies of individuals who came to Christ late in life, who had sex with many partners before they were married, how many wish they could erase the faces of those people so that they could enjoy their spouses?

If we couldn't remember our sins, we wouldn't be warned about not doing them again!
 
God gives us the gift of memory of our sins so that it continues to remind of us of our sins, to call us to repentance, to call us to brokenness...

We couldn't rejoice in our victories if we couldn't remember. We couldn't see growth that the Spirit produced in us!

Has anyone ever gone back home to "those folks" and just had God put you in the closet and lay down on your face and say "God thank you for getting me out of this place."

I remember going back to the place where I was raised in South Central LA. In April of 2006, I buried my father, dead at 55 because of an addiction to cocaine. 

I'll never forget riding around those streets, the guys I grew up with, the gang, was not there. 

I just had to go in a corner by myself and lay on my face and weep, and weep, as I remembered who I was before God saved me!

It reminds me of God's goodness to me, God's grace in my life...it reminds me of where I was and where I never want to be again.
I'm not who I ought to be but hallelujah  I am NOT who I was!"



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

OUR THOUGHTS ABOUT GOD'S THOUGHTS

“How precious also are Your thoughts unto me, O God.
How great is the sum of them. If I should
count them, they are more in number than the sand:
when I awake, I am still with You.”
Psalm 139:17, 18
 
A Sermon by Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Delivered on November 1, 1883
 
 
In the most forcible manner, it shows that God’s eye has always rested upon us and is resting upon us now. We are here made to see that God knew all about us before we were born, that He now reads our most secret thoughts, and that our unspoken words are all known to Him. And I want you to notice that the Psalm is not at all in that mournful strain in which we sometimes speak of the omniscience of God. It is a very solemn thing that God should be everywhere. “You God see me,” is a note of the most serious kind when sounded in the sinner’s ear, but to those who are the people of God, there is nothing melancholy in the thought that God sees us. There is nothing to cause us to despond or to make us feel gloomy in the fact that God compasses our path and our lying down. In fact, in proportion as we are fully reconciled to God and love Him, and rejoice in Him, it will become a cause of joy to reflect that our best Friend is never away from us, that our Protector’s hand is never removed, that the great observant eye of divine love is never closed. 
 
Now, as God thinks and must think of the whole material universe which He has created, much more does He think of men and most of all of us who are His own chosen people, to whom He stands in a very peculiar relationship as our Father, who has “begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” God must think of us—the blood would not flow in our veins, nor would the breath make our lungs to heave, nor would our various bodily processes go on without the perpetual exercise of His power. God must think of us especially in all the higher departments of our being, for they would speedily come to nothing apart from His constant care. There would be none of the spirit of prayer if He did not work it in us.

God’s thoughts of us must be very numerous. According to our text, the sum of them is very great—how great, the psalmist does not say. The number of God’s thoughts is so vast that, even if you could count the sand on the seashore, you could not count the thoughts of God concerning you. Oh, how important this makes us poor creatures, when we remember that God thinks of us! I would like you to sit still a minute and think over this wonderful truth. You know that people are very proud if a king has merely looked at them. I have heard of a man who used to boast, all his life, that King George IV—such a beauty as he was!—once spoke to him. He only said, “Get out of the road,” but it was a king who said it, so the man felt greatly gratified thereby.

 But you and I, beloved, can rejoice that God, before whom kings are as grasshoppers, actually thinks of us and thinks of us often. One or two thoughts would not suffice for our many needs—if He only thought of us now and then, what would we do in the meantime? But He thinks of us constantly. He says that He has graven our names upon the palms of His hands, as if to show how continually we are before Him. David said, “I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinks upon me.” 

And our Savior said to His disciples, “Your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him,” proving that He had thought about them and had looked upon them with careful an eye and observed all their necessities. Yes, God does in very deed and of a truth think upon His people, and His thoughts concerning them are very numerous. 

Does God in very deed think of me, from the moment when I wake in the morning and all through the day, till I lock up my heart at night and give Him the key? Does He keep on thinking of me while I lie asleep, unable to think of anything except poor wandering thoughts that come in my dreams? 

If so, blessed be His name that He condescends to do anything of the kind! “How precious are Your thoughts unto me, O God!”



 
 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Easy Conscience of Modern Evangelicalism

By the late James Montgomery Boice
 
When I wrote about the mainline denominations years ago, I said that they had become largely secular institutions that were pursuing the world's wisdom, embracing the world's theology, following the world's agenda, and employing the world's methods. But that is what many evangelicals are doing today, though not in the same precise ways. Like the liberals before us, we too have fixed our eyes on a worldly kingdom and have made politics and money our weapons of choice for grasping it.

Evangelicals are not heretics, at least not consciously. We believe the Bible is the authoritative and inerrant Word of God. But many have abandoned this ancient wisdom of the Church because they do not think it is adequate for the challenges of our time. We still use the Bible's vocabulary, but we give it new meaning, pouring bad secular content into spiritual terms.

Sin becomes dysfunctional behavior. Salvation is self-esteem or wholeness. Jesus becomes an example for right living more that a Savior from sin. As for our agenda, for many the goal is success, wonderful marriages and nice children; we do not think much about getting right with an offended God. As for methods, many are preoccupied almost exclusively with numerical growth and money.
 
But we are content that it should be so, as long as our churches continue to be prosperous and no one tries too hard to shake us out of our personal peace and affluence. 

I would like to see professed evangelicals become troubled by what is happening. I would like to see us distressed by our loss of a genuine proclamation of the Gospel and an awareness that we have become much like the liberals of the past, who declined into irrelevancy.

I would like us to be disturbed by our neglect of evangelism, particularly among our affluent, worldly, and very pagan neighbors.

I would like us to become uneasy about our failure to establish strong churches in America's inner cities, where the breakdown of American culture is so obvious and the needs of the people are so great.
 
We need..
To repent of our worldliness,
to recover the great doctrines of the Bible, as the Reformers did, and 
to see that truth embodied in our doctrine, worship practices, and church life.



Excerpts from the September/October 1998 issue of Modern Reformation magazine

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

LAW AND GOSPEL


Dr. Michael Horton

By far the question that has been taken up the most in the history of Reformed theology is whether the covenant that Israel made with God at Sinai is a re-publication or renewal of the covenant of works made with humanity in Adam. Agreeing on the covenant of works/covenant of grace scheme, Reformed pastors and theologians nevertheless differed over the question of the Mosaic covenant. Was Israel, like Adam, expected to fulfill a covenant of works and at least remain in the land on the basis of its own obedience? 

Answering that question with a “yes,” many of the great Reformed thinkers of the past (such as Rollock, Perkins, Owen, Witsius, all the way to Charles Hodge) carefully pointed out that the promises made to the nation of Israel were of two types: temporal and conditional on one hand, and everlasting and unconditional on the other. In Genesis 15, God unilaterally swears to Abraham that He will give to his descendants a land and that He will bless the whole world through his seed.

Yet at Mount Sinai, the people swear an oath to keep God’s law (“All this we will do”), and this is the condition not for entering God’s typological land of rest (since that was already a gift) but for remaining in the land and securing God’s blessing (“that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you”). On this interpretation, the land-promise is conditional. The entire theocracy that God commands as part of this covenant at Sinai is provisional — to use the language of the New Testament (Hebrews), “a shadow of things to come.” It was never intended to bring salvation but only to serve as a type of the salvation that the Lord Himself would bring. Walking in Adam’s shoes, Israel also proves unfaithful. “Like Adam, they transgressed the covenant”  Hos 6:7.  

All of this bad news sets us up for the good news in Jeremiah 31:31-34.  Crucial especially in Jeremiah’s announcement is the fact that this new covenant will not be like the Sinai covenant, which Israel broke. Even in Deuteronomy, we are confronted with the impossible demand to circumcise our own hearts, to fulfill God’s commands, and to preserve ourselves and our families in the land. However, Israel’s history proves what we already knew about humanity in Adam: Even with God’s commands written on tablets, we are transgressors. Even Israel is “in Adam,” under a curse, unable to bring about that obedience that God’s good law requires. 
 
The new covenant, like the promise to Adam after the fall, renewed in the covenants with Abraham and David, is not like the Sinai covenant. The blessings of the new covenant do not depend on our obedience, but on God’s grace: He will put His Law within us, so that it will not only be an external command that condemns us but an inward longing of our heart; He will be our God and we will be His people — yet another one-sided promise on God’s part. Instead of always giving imperatives (like “Know the Lord”), in the new covenant people will know the Lord because He has revealed Himself as their Savior. In fact, the basis for all of this is clear in verse 34: “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Forgiveness is the basis for everything else. Once God completely clears their debt, the heirs of this new covenant will be given the new hearts and a new relationship to God that could never be accomplished under the Law. 

The Law is good, but we are not. The Law commands, but cannot give. It tells us what must be done, but helping us get it done is simply not in the Law’s job description. It condemns us for violation, but cannot exercise clemency for violators.
 
But once the Law’s legitimate claim against us is satisfied, the gospel and the law conspire together to give us both grace and direction for our Christian life, in relation to God and our neighbors. Having fulfilled the Law as well as having borne its wrath in our place, “canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands” by “nailing it to the cross” Col 2:14, we who were dead in sins are now made alive. Baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, we now “put on” the “new self” Col 3:1-17. 


As Jeremiah 31 made so clear already, the new covenant is effective because it rests on indicatives, not imperatives; on gospel, not law; on promises, not commands. Notice that I didn’t say the new covenant dispenses with imperatives, laws, or commands, but merely that it is not based on them. God has done in Christ what the Law could not do in us. In Christ, God not only finds the perfect substitute for our sins but the fulfiller of all righteousness on our behalf. We are not only forgiven, but are accounted as those who have perfectly fulfilled God’s moral will in thought, word, and deed.

In this way, the classic covenant theology that is promoted by Reformed theology shares Paul’s concern simultaneously to uphold the Law and yet demonstrate that this can only be done if there is a way for us to be forgiven, justified, renewed, and sanctified on the basis of another’s Law-keeping. Because of Christ’s success as the second Adam and faithful Israel, we can enter God’s rest — this time, not the typological rest, in Canaan, but the everlasting rest to which it pointed and for which Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David all longed. Once the new covenant arrived in the person of Christ, the old covenant became obsolete, Heb 8:13.

Having served its function of leading Israel to Christ, the sacred status once applied to the nation and its land is now applied to the body of Christ, consisting of Jewish and Gentile believers together. This church constitutes “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” 1 Peter 2:9.

What then are we to say about Moses’ status in the church today? Reformed theology has traditionally insisted that the moral law (that is, the Ten Commandments) remains in force, while the ceremonial and civil laws of the old covenant are now obsolete along with that covenant itself. No other nation was brought into a covenant relation with God as a typological witness to His coming kingdom. While the Sinai covenant is itself a covenant of works, where Israel promises to do everything it says on pain of death, we inherit God’s promises in a covenant of grace. And precisely because Christ has fulfilled the covenant of works for us, we can inherit all of the everlasting promises in a covenant of grace. 

Only the heirs of that covenant, after all, are able to begin in this life to say with the Psalmist, “How I love your law, O Lord!”

Law and Gospel


 
 

Friday, August 18, 2017

Christ With Us Always


James Montgomery Boice

Church people are willing to speak of sin in the sense that all are “less perfect than God” and need help to live a godly life. That is not offensive to anyone. But it is not the full biblical teaching. The Bible teaches that men and women are in rebellion against God (Ps. 2:1–3). It says, not that they are marred by sin, but that they are dead in it (Eph. 2:1–3).

It says they have been so affected by sin that even their thoughts are thoroughly corrupted: “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Gen. 6:5). So great is this depravity that a person cannot even come to Christ unless God first renews His soul and thus draws Him (John 6:24). 

While it is true that in ourselves we cannot come to Christ and so live under God’s judgment, Christ teaches that God has nevertheless acted in grace toward some who were perishing. Thus, salvation is by grace alone. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me” (John 6:37). He said to His Father, “I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me” (John 17:9).

Although God does the great work of saving individuals, drawing them to Christ, He does not abandon them at that point but rather directs and empowers them to do meaningful work for Him. Most of Christ’s teachings about discipleship fall into this area. So does Ephesians 2:10 (“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”).

Like Jesus Himself, Christians are to stand for justice and do everything in their power to comfort the sick, rescue the outcast, defend the oppressed, and save the innocent. We are also to oppose those who perpetrate or condone injustice.

Jesus was strong in cautioning against presumption. He let no one think that he could presume to be a Christian while at the same time disregarding or disobeying His teachings. He said, “My sheep listen to my voice . . . ” (John 10:27). If we are not listening to Christ and are not following Him in faithful obedience, we are not His. 
 
However, although He cautioned against presumption, He also spoke the greatest words of assurance and confidence for those who did follow Him. He said they would never be lost. Indeed, how could they be if God Himself is responsible for their salvation? 
 
This does not mean that there will not be dangers, of course; in fact, it implies them. For if Jesus promises that no one will succeed in snatching us from His hands, it must be because He knows that there are some who will try. The Christian will always face dangers—dangers without, from enemies, and dangers within. Still the promise is that those who have believed in Jesus will never be lost. The Christian may well be deprived of things. He may lose his job, his friends, his good reputation. This has happened to those who have been most faithful, particularly in times of persecution. Still, believers will not be lost. The promise is not that the ship will not go to the bottom, but that the passengers will all reach the shore. It is not that the house will not burn down, but that the people will all escape safely. 
 
 Jesus said, 
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). 

 
 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD



A.W. Pink

The sovereignty of God may be defined as the exercise of His Supremacy.

Being infinitely elevated above the highest creature, He is the Most High, Lord of heaven and earth. Subject to none, influenced by none, absolutely independent; God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases. None can thwart Him, none can hinder Him.

So His own Word expressly declares: "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure" (Isa. 46:10).
"He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand" (Dan. 4:35).

Divine sovereignty means that God is God in fact, as well as in name, that He is on the Throne of the universe, directing all things, working all things "after the counsel of His own will" (Eph. 1:11).

Unrivalled in majesty, unlimited in power, unaffected by anything outside Himself. But we are living in a day when even the most "orthodox" seem afraid to admit the proper Godhood of God. They say that excludes human responsibility; whereas human responsibility is based upon Divine sovereignty, and is the product of it.

"But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased" (Ps. 115:3). He sovereignly chose to place each of His creatures on that particular footing which seemed good in His sight. He created angels: some He placed on a conditional footing, others He gave an immutable standing before Him (1 Tim. 5:21), making Christ their head (Col. 2:10).

Let it not be overlooked that the angels which sinned (2 Pet. 2:5) were as much His creatures as the angels that sinned not. Yet God foresaw they would fall, nevertheless He placed them on a mutable creature, conditional footing, and suffered them to fall, though He was not the Author of their sin.

So too, God sovereignly placed Adam in the garden of Eden upon a conditional footing. Had He so pleased, He could have placed him upon an unconditional footing; He could have placed him on a footing as firm as that occupied by the unfallen angels, He could have placed him upon a footing as sure and as immutable as that which His saints have in Christ. But, instead, He chose to set him in Eden on the basis of creature responsibility, so that he stood or fell according as he measured or failed to measure up to his responsibility obedience to his Maker. Adam stood accountable to God by the law which his Creator had given him. Here was responsibility, unimpaired responsibility, tested out under the most favorable conditions.

God is sovereign. His will is supreme. So far from God being under any law of "right," He is a law unto Himself, so that whatsoever He does is right. And woe be to the rebel that calls His sovereignty into question: "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker... Shall the thing say to Him that fashioned it, 'What makest Thou?' (Isa. 45:9)

Human responsibility is based upon Divine sovereignty. God placed His elect upon a different footing from Adam or Israel. He placed them upon an unconditional footing. In the Everlasting Covenant Jesus Christ was appointed their Head, took their responsibilities upon Himself, and wrought out a righteousness for them which is perfect, indefeasible, eternal. Christ was placed upon a conditional footing, for He was "made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law," only with this infinite difference: the others failed, He did not and could not. And who placed Christ upon that conditional footing? The Triune God. It was sovereign will that appointed Him, sovereign love that sent Him, sovereign authority that assigned Him His work.

Certain conditions were set before the Mediator. He was to be made in the likeness of sin’s flesh; He was to magnify the law and make it honorable; He was to bear all the sins of all God’s people in His own body on the tree; He was to make full, atonement for them; He was to endure the outpoured wrath of God; He was to die and be buried. On the fulfillment of those conditions He was promised a reward: Isaiah 53:10-12. He was to be the Firstborn among many brethren; He was to have a people who should share His glory.

Blessed be His name forever, He fulfilled those conditions, and because He did so, the Father stands pledged, on solemn oath, to preserve through time and bless throughout eternity every one of those for whom His incarnate Son mediated. Because He took their place, they now share His. His righteousness is theirs, His standing before God is theirs, His life is theirs. There is not a single condition for them to meet, not a single responsibility for them to discharge in order to attain their eternal bliss. "By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are set apart" (Heb. 10:14).


Excerpts from  The Attributes of God



Friday, July 14, 2017

A Defense of Calvinism


"The old truth that Calvin preached, that Augustine preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be false to my conscience and my God. I cannot shape the truth; I know of no such thing as paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox's gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again.

It is a great thing to begin the Christian life by believing good solid doctrine. Some people have received twenty different "gospels" in as many years; how many more they will accept before they get to their journey's end, it would be difficult to predict. I thank God that He early taught me the gospel, and I have been so perfectly satisfied with it, that I do not want to know any other. Constant change of creed is sure loss. If a tree has to be taken up two or three times a year, you will not need to build a very large loft in which to store the apples.

When people are always shifting their doctrinal principles, they are not likely to bring forth much fruit to the glory of God. It is good for young believers to begin with a firm hold upon those great fundamental doctrines which the Lord has taught in His Word. Why, if I believed what some preach about the temporary, trumpery salvation which only lasts for a time, I would scarcely be at all grateful for it; but when I know that those whom God saves He saves with an everlasting salvation, when I know that He gives to them an everlasting righteousness, when I know that He settles them on an everlasting foundation of everlasting love, and that He will bring them to His everlasting kingdom, oh, then I do wonder, and I am astonished that such a blessing as this should ever have been given to me!

I suppose there are some persons whose minds naturally incline towards the doctrine of free-will. I can only say that mine inclines as naturally towards the doctrines of sovereign grace. Sometimes, when I see some of the worst characters in the street, I feel as if my heart must burst forth in tears of gratitude that God has never let me act as they have done! I have thought, if God had left me alone, and had not touched me by His grace, what a great sinner I should have been! I should have run to the utmost lengths of sin, dived into the very depths of evil, nor should I have stopped at any vice or folly, if God had not restrained me. I feel that I should have been a very king of sinners, if God had let me alone.

I cannot understand the reason why I am saved, except upon the ground that God would have it so. I cannot, if I look ever so earnestly, discover any kind of reason in myself why I should be a partaker of Divine grace. If I am not at this moment without Christ, it is only because Christ Jesus would have His will with me, and that will was that I should be with Him where He is, and should share His glory. I can put the crown nowhere but upon the head of Him whose mighty grace has saved me from going down into the pit.

Looking back on my past life, I can see that the dawning of it all was of God; of God effectively. I took no torch with which to light the sun, but the sun enlightened me. I did not commence my spiritual life-no, I rather kicked, and struggled against the things of the Spirit: when He drew me, for a time I did not run after Him: there was a natural hatred in my soul of everything holy and good.  It was He who turned my heart, and brought me down on my knees before Him.

Well can I remember the manner in which I learned the doctrines of grace in a single instant. Born, as all of us are by nature, an Arminian, I still believed the old things I had heard continually from the pulpit, and did not see the grace of God. When I was coming to Christ, I thought I was doing it all myself, and though I sought the Lord earnestly, I had no idea the Lord was seeking me.

 One week-night, when I was sitting in the house of God, I was not thinking much about the preacher's sermon, for I did not believe it. The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment- I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, "I ascribe my change wholly to God."

I am bound to the doctrine of the depravity of the human heart, because I find myself depraved in heart, and have daily proofs that in my flesh there dwelleth no good thing. If God enters into covenant with unfallen man, man is so insignificant a creature that it must be an act of gracious condescension on the Lord's part; but if God enters into covenant with sinful man, he is then so offensive a creature that it must be, on God's part, an act of pure, free, rich, sovereign grace. When the Lord entered into covenant with me, I am sure that it was all of grace, nothing else but grace.

When I remember what a den of unclean beasts and birds my heart was, and how strong was my unrenewed will, how obstinate and rebellious against the sovereignty of the Divine rule, I always feel inclined to take the very lowest room in my Father's house, and when I enter Heaven, it will be to go among the less than the least of all saints, and with the chief of sinners.

If anyone should ask me what I mean by a Calvinist, I should reply, "He is one who says, Salvation is of the Lord." I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible. "He only is my rock and my salvation."
Tell me anything contrary to this truth, and it will be a heresy; tell me a heresy, and I shall find its essence here, that it has departed from this great, this fundamental, this rock-truth, "God is my rock and my salvation."

What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ-the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification?

And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here.

I have my own Private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross..." 
Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon
 
Excerpts from Defense of Calvinism


sermonindex.com

Friday, July 7, 2017

Salvation by Grace through Faith

  "By grace are ye saved, through faith." Ephesians 2:8

SaintAugustine 

For what good work can a lost man perform, except so far as he has been delivered from perdition? Can they do anything by the free determination of their own will?
 
Again I say, God forbid. For it was by the evil use of his free-will that man destroyed both it and himself. For, as a man who kills himself must, of course, be alive when he kills himself, but after he has killed himself ceases to live, and cannot restore himself to life; so, when man by his own free-will sinned, then sin being victorious over him, the freedom of his will was lost. 

"For of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage." 2 Peter 2:19 This is the judgment of the Apostle Peter. And as it is certainly true, what kind of liberty, I ask, can the bond-slave possess, except when it pleases him to sin? For he is freely in bondage who does with pleasure the will of his master.

Accordingly, he who is the servant of sin is free to sin. And hence he will not be free to do right, until, being freed from sin, he shall begin to be the servant of righteousness. And this is true liberty, for he has pleasure in the righteous deed; and it is at the same time a holy bondage, for he is obedient to the will of God.
 
But whence comes this liberty to do right to the man who is in bondage and sold under sin, except he be redeemed by Him who has said, "If the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed?" John 8:36

And before this redemption is wrought in a man, when he is not yet free to do what is right, how can he talk of the freedom of his will and his good works, except he be inflated by that foolish pride of boasting which the apostle restrains when he says, "By grace are ye saved, through faith." Ephesians 2:8

Carlo Crivelli _ Google Art Project


Friday, June 30, 2017

Faith and Repentance

 
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel”   Mark 1:14-15


Excerpt from Faith and Repentance:
Sinclair Ferguson 
"Here repentance and faith belong together. They denote two aspects in conversion that are equally essential to it. Thus, either term implies the presence of the other because each reality (repentance or faith) is the sine qua non of the other.
In grammatical terms, then, the words repent and believe both function as a synecdoche—the figure of speech in which a part is used for the whole. Thus, repentance implies faith and faith implies repentance. One cannot exist without the other.

But which comes first, logically? Is it repentance? Is it faith? Or does neither have an absolute priority? There has been prolonged debates in Reformed thought about this. Each of three possible answers has had advocates:

First, W. G. T. Shedd insisted that faith must precede repentance in the order of nature: “Though faith and repentance are inseparable and simultaneous, yet in the order of nature, faith precedes repentance” (Dogmatic Theology, 2.536). Shedd argued this on the grounds that the motivating power for repentance lies in faith’s grasp of the mercy of God. If repentance were to precede faith, both repentance and faith would be legal in character, and they would become prerequisites for grace.

Second, Louis Berkhof appears to have taken the reverse position: “There is no doubt that, logically, repentance and the knowledge of sin precede the faith that yields to Christ in trusting love” (Systematic Theology, p. 492).
Third, John Murray insisted that this issue raises
an unnecessary question and the insistence that one is prior to the other is futile. There is no priority. The faith that is unto salvation is a penitent faith and the repentance that is unto life is a believing repentance … saving faith is permeated with repentance and repentance is permeated with saving faith. (Redemption—Accomplished and Applied, p. 113).
This is, surely, the more biblical perspective. We cannot separate turning from sin in repentance and coming to Christ in faith. They describe the same person in the same action, but from different perspectives. In one instance (repentance), the person is viewed in relation to sin; in the other (faith), the person is viewed in relation to the Lord Jesus. But the individual who trusts in Christ simultaneously turns away from sin. In believing he repents and in repenting believes. Perhaps R. L. Dabney expressed it best when he insisted that repentance and faith are “twin” graces (perhaps we might say “conjoined twins”).

But having said this, we have by no means said everything there is to say. Entwined within any theology of conversion lies a psychology of conversion. In any particular individual, at the level of consciousness, a sense of either repentance or trust may predominate. What is unified theologically may be diverse psychologically. Thus, an individual deeply convicted of the guilt and bondage of sin may experience turning from it (repentance) as the dominant note in his or her conversion. Others (whose experience of conviction deepens after their conversion) may have a dominant sense of the wonder of Christ’s love, with less agony of soul at the psychological level. Here the individual is more conscious of trusting in Christ than of repentance from sin. But in true conversion, neither can exist without the other.

Yes, repentance and faith are two essential elements in conversion. They constitute twin graces that can never be separated. As John Calvin well reminds us, this is true not only of the beginning but of the whole of our Christian lives. We are believing penitents and penitent believers all the way to glory."

Scottish Preacher, Writer, Theologian
Sinclair Ferguson
 
For complete article: 
http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/faith-and-repentance/

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

False Disciples


 Photo: R. Huggins (Public Domain Creative Commons)

The Pathology of False Disciples ~ John MacArthur

John 6:60-71

“Therefore, many of his disciples when they heard this said, ‘This is a hard, difficult statement.  Who can listen to it?’  But Jesus, conscious that his disciples grumbled at this, said to them, ‘Does this cause you to stumble?  What then if you see the son of man ascending to where he was before?  It is the spirit who gives life.  The flesh profits nothing.  The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.  But there are some of you who do not believe.’”

“For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe and who it was who would betray him.  And he was saying, ‘For this reason, I have said to you that no one can come to me unless it has been granted him from the father.’  As a result of this, many of his disciples withdrew and were not walking with him anymore.  So Jesus said to the 12, ‘You do not want to go away also, do you?’  Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  We have believed and have come to know that you are the holy one of God.’”

“Jesus answered them, ‘Did I myself not choose you, the 12, and yet one of you is a devil?’  Now he meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot for he, one of the 12, was going to betray him.” 

The notable statement in this section I just read is in verse 66 where it says that many of his disciples withdrew and were not walking with him anymore.  And the original language indicates this is the final decision.  They were over it, whatever it was that drew them to him.  And the pain is manifest in the heart of Jesus over this defection.  You see it in verse 67 where he pensively says, “You do not want to go away also, do you,” when speaking to the 12.

 I can’t comprehend the pain that our Lord suffered over the defection of these disciples, these students of his who turned their back finally and went away, but I do know in some small measure this difficult reality in ministry.  Biblical ministry, gospel ministry, certainly pastoral ministry has a sadness to it that never goes away, and frankly, it accumulates the longer you do it, and it is the heartbreaking reality that people come, and people hear, and people stay, and sometimes people actually profess, and then they turn their backs on the Lord Jesus Christ and eternal life and plunge back into their sin and leave.

I’ve seen it constantly in all the years of ministry, both here and beyond.  It’s not rare.  It’s not rare.  Normal is what it is.  It’s the nature of ministry to see people who come and hear and stay for some measure of time, and leave and turn their backs on the gospel.  It is the most painful of all spiritual experiences.  It is the most discouraging of all.  Not just because you don’t get a return on the investment you made.  Not because they forsake the preacher.  Not because they forsake the people, but because they forsake the Lord.  The only hope of salvation, the only hope of heaven.  It is so severe that there is one particular book in the Bible that more than any other warns against doing this, and it is the book of Hebrews, and I want you to turn to Hebrews for a moment.

There are throughout the book of Hebrews a series of warnings, and they are warnings to people who have identified in some way with a group of believers.  They have come.  They have listened.  They have stayed.  They have gotten involved.  They’ve even paid a price for that association, but they don’t really believe, and so they defect.  This issue is so much on the heart of the writer of this epistle and the Holy Spirit who inspired it that there appear scattered throughout the book these severe warnings, starting very early in the book in Chapter 2, and in Chapter 10, and that’s where I want you to look, Hebrews 10.

Now what we have here are people who had heard the gospel.  They had heard it from those who were with Jesus.  They heard it from people whose preaching was tested by signs and wonders, miracles.  They were interested enough to stay.  They associated with this church.  Their hearts had been drawn and warmed, but they’re in danger of walking away.  They’re short of faith.  They haven’t yet genuinely believed.  And so if you look at Verse 23, you have a very direct statement that sort of launches this portion here.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.”  It is to those wavering people that this warning is rendered.  Don’t let go of the confession you’ve made.  This is a warning against the most severe sin that any person can commit.  It’s the sin of apostasy.  That is the sin of knowing the truth and rejecting it when you know it.

I suppose we think that the hottest hell is reserved for the people who committed the most heinous crimes, and that would be correct.  What we don’t sometimes understand is the most heinous crime is to reject the gospel with full knowledge.  Far worse than any Hitlerian crime.  That is the ultimate crime, as we will see in this passage.

So the warnings are very serious and very severe.  If you go down to verse 26, we’re introduced to what apostasy is, for if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, that’s what it is.  What does “go on sinning” mean?  Go on sinning by not believing.  The ultimate sin that dams everybody is the sin of what?  Unbelief.  Every other sin is forgiven when you believe.  Every other sin.  So if you go on sinning by not believing, by rejecting the Lord Jesus Christ, if you will not receive the knowledge of the truth, gospel truth, that is apostasy.  Willful, deliberate, intentional continuation in a life of sin that does not embrace the truth.

That’s the warning.  You’ve heard it as these people to whom he writes heard, but you willfully continue in the same path.  That’s what it is.  That’s what apostasy is.  Here are the results of it.  First, there’s no longer any sacrifice for your sin.  If you reject the only sacrifice, there is no other sacrifice.  There is no other provision for salvation.  None.  There’s only one name under heaven whereby men can be saved.  That’s the name of Jesus Christ.  He alone is the way, the truth, and the life.  He is the one who offered the one offering that God accepted to perfect forever those that believe.

So if you reject him, there is no longer any other sacrifice to which you can turn, no other offerings satisfy God.  So what happens as a result of that?  You are left unforgiven, and Verse 27 says, “What awaits you is a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”  No more sacrifice for sin is available, and you are turned over to terrifying judgment eternally.

And then he adds something else.  Verse 28.  Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  You break the law of Moses, and you die.  How much severer punishment, Verse 29, do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the son of God and regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant, the blood he shed on the cross by which he was sanctified, set apart unto God is the only acceptable sacrifice, and has insulted the spirit of grace.

How severe is that punishment?  You are turned over in Verse 30 to the Lord who will judge his people.  Vengeance is mine.  I will repay.  This unbelief, this rejection of the gospel, this trampling of the son of God is a sin against the trinity.  You trample the son of God, you insult the Holy Spirit, and you so violate God who said, “This is my beloved son.  Listen to him that you come under his full wrath.”  That’s why Verse 31 says it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Not believing the gospel is a sin against the trinity.  Massive sin of such epic proportions that the most severe punishment in hell is reserved for those who do that.  That’s sin.  That’s sin.  In light of that, there’s a plea starting in Verse 32 not to do that.  And here are some deterrents.  Remember the former days when you were enlightened.  Remember the former days when you were enlightened.  Remember your interest originally in the gospel.  Remember how wonderful the message was when you first heard it.  Remember how hopeful you were when you heard about a sacrifice for sin, and you heard about the promise of heaven.  Remember.

There are some of you this morning – and this is the first time you’ve been here, maybe be the last.  Because of what you’re going to hear, you’re not going to like me, and because I’m going to tell you what Jesus said, you may have a different view of him and not like him either.

This may be the beginning and the end.  There are others of you who have been here a while that you’ve been thinking you’ve had enough of this, you’re over it.  Whatever the original attraction was is gone.  You’re over this.  You don’t want this in your life.  You don’t believe.  You’re not really willing to give up your sin.  And you’re about to go, and maybe for some of you, this might be the last Sunday.  There are some of you who are still in the throes of trying to make that decision, but down the road, you’ll turn your back and walk away and shrink back to destruction.

And if you don’t think that’s a heartache beyond measure, you’re wrong.  But as sad as it is to me and those who serve you, equally sad as it is to those in your world who love you, it is far more sad for your sake because of what that means eternally.  This issue is an issue that got far beyond John 6, but let’s go back to that point.  This is reality in ministry.  This is why ministry is this two-edged sword.  You minister over a long period of time, many, many years, and you accumulate the joy of faithful true believers, and you accumulate the sorrows of unfaithful defectors.  So you’re always kind of living in the tension of those things.

Would be easy to say the longer you minister, the more you see of the grace of God, and that would be absolutely true, but the more you minister, the more you see of those who turn their backs to the grace of God and walk away.  There’s a sadness, and I know that sadness, and the Lord knew it far, far beyond anything I could ever comprehend. 
 

View John MacArthur's complete sermon here:


Preached February, 2014
Expository Teaching Series: John 6
Complete Transcript:  https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/43-39


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Preaching an Exclusive Gospel


Steven Lawson

Regardless of the cultural currents of the day, and regardless of the changing of the times, he must be persuaded that faith in Jesus Christ alone is the only way of salvation. From Genesis to Revelation, the whole Scripture speaks with one voice, testifying that there is not one drop of saving grace outside the cross of Jesus Christ. Though the world is constantly changing, this truth of salvation in Christ alone never changes.

No preacher can afford to be wrong at this point, as though the gospel can ever be adapted. To be wrong about the gospel is to be wrong everywhere else that truly matters. To be wrong here is to stand in opposition to the saving mission and sin-bearing death of Jesus Christ. To be wrong here is to contradict the meaning of the substitutionary death and bodily resurrection of Christ. To be wrong here is to divert souls away from the only way that leads to God and to usher them onto the broad path that leads to destruction.

The very essence of the gospel itself demands that every pulpit guard its exclusivity. When the message of the cross is rightly defined, the singularity of the saving purposes of God is automatically established. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone—period, end of paragraph, end of discussion. To this truth, the Bible has a “zero tolerance” policy for any equivocation outside of its borders.

This cuts against the grain of the spirit of this age. In this postmodern world, tolerance is the new virtue. An acceptance of every opinion about religion and morality is applauded. We find ourselves preaching in a postmodern culture in which there are no moral absolutes. What is truth for one person may not be truth for another. In this complex maze of competing worldviews today, every philosophy and ideology has some contribution to make to contribute to the larger body of knowledge.

This eclectic approach to finding the truth may look attractive to some. But the Scripture is adamant that truth is absolute. Further, it asserts that Jesus Christ is the only way to find acceptance with God.

This exclusive nature of the gospel desperately needs to be guarded. So-called efforts to contextualize the gospel today often result in its disappearance. In many cases, the issue is not what is being said from the pulpit, but what is not said. A gospel message that does not present Jesus as the only way is not the gospel message. The singular nature of the Christian gospel must be proclaimed with conviction and clarity. To be sure, there is no other way of salvation.

The apostle Paul addresses this very issue in the opening section of his letter to the Galatians. In the churches of this region, the gospel had come under siege. The message of salvation had been conflated with another gospel, which is, Paul says, no gospel at all. The message of saving grace of God in Christ had come under attack and was no longer being preached as Paul had delivered it.

Within the churches of Galatia, false teachers known as Judaizers were mixing law with grace and fusing works with faith. These defilers of the gospel claimed that salvation must be earned by keeping the law and that sanctification was achieved through the works of the flesh. These perverters of the promises of God sought to change the good news into claiming that salvation was not a gift for the guilty, but a reward for the righteous. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In light of these damning distortions, the apostle Paul could no longer remain quiet. He penned a fiery letter to the Galatians in order to fight the noblest fight any preacher could undertake. Paul contended for the faith, that salvation solely comes through the grace of God in the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

In the opening verses of Galatians, Paul minces no words. He breathes holy fire. He tells all corrupters of the gospel they are going to hell. He is shocked with the Galatians, who have so quickly been duped by these false teachers. Paul must speak directly to the believers in Galatia and confront them with this present danger at hand. He does not try to win them over by emphasizing the common ground between the gospel of Christ and this “different gospel” (v. 6). He does not say it is merely a matter of simatics. Instead, he goes straight to the heart of the matter: this gospel is a false message.

Such words need to be proclaimed today by every man who stands before an open Bible to declare its truths. The gospel is not subject to negotiation. Those who think so are, in Paul’s words, “accursed.” This is all the more reason that the whole gospel of Christ—including its exclusive nature—must be heralded by every preacher.




Excerpt from Preaching an Exclusive Gospel in an Inclusive Age
Read more at One Passion Ministries 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Sinners in The Hands of An Angry God

"There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God."

Jonathan Edwards 
Excerpts 
 
By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God's mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment. 

There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men's hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands.-He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself, and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defense from the power of God. Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God's enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. 

They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell. 
John 3:18  "He that believeth not is condemned already." So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is, John 8:23,  "Ye are from beneath." And thither he is bound; it is the place that justice, and God's word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to him. 

They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is with many miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath. Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell. So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that he does not let loose his hand and cut them off.

For the present, God restrains their wickedness by his mighty power, as he does the raging waves of the troubled sea, saying, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further;" but if God should withdraw that restraining power, it would soon carry all before it. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like fire pent up by God's restraints, whereas if it were let loose, it would set on fire the course of nature...

 It is no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he does not see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows this is no evidence, that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step will not be into another world. The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noon-day; the sharpest sight cannot discern them.

God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending them to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear, that God had need to be at the expense of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked man, at any moment. All the means that there are of sinners going out of the world, are so in God's hands, and so universally and absolutely subject to his power and determination, that it does not depend at all the less on the mere will of God, whether sinners shall at any moment go to hell, than if means were never made use of, or at all concerned in the case.

Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every one lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes will not fail. They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the greater part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for his own escape than others have done. He does not intend to come to that place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take effectual care, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail. 

God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment. God certainly has made no promises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance or preservation from eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace, the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. But surely they have no interest in the promises of the covenant of grace who are not the children of the covenant, who do not believe in any of the promises, and have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant.

So that, whatever some have imagined and pretended about promises made to natural men's earnest seeking and knocking, it is plain and manifest, that whatever pains a natural man takes in religion, whatever prayers he makes, till he believes in Christ, God is under no manner of obligation to keep him a moment from eternal destruction.

 ...thus it is that natural men are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold them up one moment.
Luke 12: 4-5  "And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear Him, which after He hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: yea, I say unto you, Fear Him."

Library of Congress, Rare Books Div, NY Public Library

 
Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, and the Rare Books Division, the New York Public Library.




 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Wrath of God

Martin Lloyd-Jones

Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. - Ephesians 2:3
We now come to look at the apostle's final statement about man in sin; and that is, that he is under the wrath of God. In other words Paul deals with sin, as sin affects man's standing before God. He shows what God says and thinks and does about man in that condition which we have already considered: There can be no question at all but that this is the most important aspect of the subject. The others were vitally important, but there is nothing which is as important as this. It is because we so constantly forget this that the world is as it is today - and indeed that the Church is as she is. We are so self-centered and concerned about ourselves that we fail to remember that the most important thing above all else is the way in which God looks down upon it all. That is the subject with which we now have to deal.

The apostle puts it like this. He says that "we were all by nature the children of wrath, even as others". Here we have a twofold statement. And there is no doubt at all but that these two matters that we are compelled to look at together are two of the most difficult and perplexing subjects in the whole realm and range of biblical doctrine. That is why they have often led to great misunderstanding, and are subjects which people often in their ignorance not only fail to understand but bitterly resent. There is no subject, perhaps, which has more frequently led people to speak - albeit unconsciously - in a blasphemous manner, than this very matter which we are now going to consider. The apostle says two things: that we are all under the wrath of God; and secondly that we are all under the wrath of God by nature.

Why should we examine these things? Someone may well ask that question. Why spend our time on a subject like this, a difficult subject? There are so many other things that are interesting at the present time and attracting attention. Why not deal with them? And in any case, amid all the problems that confront the world, why turn to something like this?

Well, lest there be someone who is harbouring some such idea, and is provoked to put such a question, let me suggest certain reasons why it behoves us to consider this matter. The first is that it is part of Scripture. It is here in the Bible and, as we shall see, it is everywhere in the Bible. And if we regard the Bible as the Word of God, and our authority in all matters of faith and conduct, we cannot pick and choose; we must take it as it is and consider its every part and portion.

Secondly, we must do so because what we are told here is, after all, a question of fact. It is not theory, it is a statement of fact. If the biblical doctrine of the wrath of God is true, then it is the most important fact confronting every one of us at this moment; infinitely more important than any international conference that may be held, infinitely more important than whether there is to be a third world war or not. If this doctrine is true, then we are all involved in it, and our eternal destiny depends upon it. And the Bible states everywhere that it is a fact.

Another reason for considering it is this: that the apostle's whole argument is that we can never understand the love of God until we understand this doctrine. It is - the way in which we measure the love of God. There is a great deal of talk today about the love of God, and yet were we truly to love God, we would express it, we would show it. To love God is not merely to talk about it; to love God, as He Himself points out constantly in His Word, is to keep His commandments and to live for His glory. The argument here is that we really cannot understand the love of God unless we see it in the light of this other doctrine which we are now considering. So it is essential from that standpoint.

Why did Christ die? Why had He to die? If we say that we are saved by His blood, why are we saved by His blood? Why was it essential that He should die on that cross and be buried and rise again before we could be saved? There is only one adequate answer to these questions, and that is this doctrine of the wrath of God. The death of our Lord upon the cross is not absolutely necessary unless this doctrine is true. So, you see, it is a vital matter for us to consider.

Why is it that people do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Why is it that people are not Christians and not members of the Christian Church? Why does the Lord Jesus Christ not come into their calculations at all? In the last analysis there is only one answer to that question: they do not believe in Him because they have never seen any need of Him. And they have never seen any need of Him because they have never realized that they are sinners. And they have never realized that they are sinners because they have never realized the truth about the holiness of God and the justice and the righteousness of God; they have never known anything about God as the judge eternal and about the wrath of God against the sin of man. So you see this doctrine is essential in evangelism. If we really believe in salvation and in our absolute need of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must start with this doctrine. There, then, are the reasons for considering it. The apostle supplies them; I am simply repeating them.

The first thing the apostle says is that all who are born into this world are under the wrath of God. He says we "were all the children of wrath, even as others"; we were all the children of wrath, as the rest of mankind - that is what "even as others" means. Here we come face to face with this tremendous doctrine which I know full well is not only unpopular at the present time but is even hated and detested. People can scarcely control themselves as they speak about it.

The whole modern idea has been for a number of years, that God is a God of love and that we must think of God only in terms of love. To talk about the wrath of God, we are told, is utterly incompatible with any idea of God as a God of love.
Wrath is nothing but a manifestation of indignation based upon justice. Indeed, we can go further and assert that the wrath of God, according to the scriptural teaching, is nothing but the other side of the love of God. It is the inevitable corollary of the rejection of the love of God. God is a God of love, but God is also and equally a God of justice and of righteousness; and if God's love is spurned and rejected there remains nothing but the justice and the righteousness and the wrath of God.

In the Old Testament it is to be found at the very beginning. When man fell in the garden of Eden, God visited and spoke to him and pronounced judgment upon him. He drove him out of the garden, and there at the eastern gate of the garden He placed the cherubim and the flaming sword. What is the meaning of the flaming sword? It means just this very thing; it is the sword of God's justice, it is God's sword of wrath and of punishment, punishing man for his sin and making it impossible for him to come back and eat of the tree of life and live for ever. There, at the very beginning, is a manifestation of God's righteous judgment and His wrath upon sin. It is to be found running right through the Old Testament: in the story of the flood, the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and in the various punishments of the children of Israel, whether as a nation or as individuals. The Old Testament is full of this. God has given His law and He has pronounced that if men break it He will punish them - that is His wrath. And when they have done so He has punished them. He has punished individuals, He has punished the nation, even His own chosen people. He punished them, He poured His wrath upon them by raising up the Chaldean army which came and sacked Jerusalem and carried away the people as captives into Babylon. That was a manifestation of the wrath and the righteous judgment of God. It is everywhere in the Old Testament; you really cannot believe the Old Testament unless you accept this doctrine of the wrath of God.

When you come to the New Testament, in spite of all that modern critics would have us believe, the doctrine is again present everywhere. The first preacher in the New Testament is John the Baptist. What did he say? He said, "Flee from the wrath to come"; "Repent and be baptised every one of you, flee from the wrath to come". The Pharisees came to be baptised of John, and he looked at them and said, "Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" It was his great message.

Indeed it was the message of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. But, and most surprising of all, we find it in the verse that is generally quoted as the supreme statement of God as a God of love - John 3: 16, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son". Why did He do so? The answer is "that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life". The alternative to everlasting life is perishing. And it is John 3: 16 that teaches it. But the thirty - sixth verse of that third chapter of John is still more plain, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him". In other words, all men are under the wrath of God, and unless we believe on the Son of God the wrath of God abides upon us. What can be more plain or explicit? There it is in the Gospel of John ~ the apostle of love.

So it is quite clear that the idea that love and wrath are incompatible is a complete denial of the plain teaching of the Scriptures. Indeed I would go so far as to say that unless we start with this idea of the wrath of God against sin we cannot possibly understand the compassion of God, we cannot understand the love of God. It is only as I realize God's wrath against sin that I realize the full significance of His providing a way of salvation from it. If I do not understand this I do not understand that, and my talk about the love of God is mere loose sentimentality which is indeed a denial of the great biblical doctrine of the love of God.

The apostle's teaching, then, is that until we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ we are under the wrath of God. And the wrath of God is an expression of God's hatred of sin, an expression of God's punishment of sin. It is a clear statement to this effect, that if we die in our sins we go on to eternal punishment. That is the teaching of Scripture. The wrath of God against sin manifests itself finally in hell, where men and women remain outside the life of God in misery and wretchedness, slaves to their own lusts and desires, selfish and self-centered. The apostle's teaching is that that is the position of all who are not Christians. They are under the wrath of God in this life, they will remain under the wrath of God in the next life. That is the position of the sinner, according to Scripture.

 If you object to the idea you are objecting to the Scriptures, you are setting up some philosophic idea of your own contrary to their plain teaching. You are not arguing with me, you are arguing with the Scriptures. You are arguing with these holy apostles, you are arguing with the Son of God Himself If you believe that the Bible is divinely inspired, then you must not say, "But I don't understand". You are not asked to understand. I do not understand it, I do not pretend to understand it. But I start from this basis, that my mind is not only finite but is, furthermore, sinful, and that I cannot possibly understand fully the nature of God and the justice and the holiness of God.

If we are going to base everything on our understanding, then we might as well give up at this point. For the Bible tell us that "the natural man" and "the natural mind" cannot understand the things of the Spirit of God (I Corinthians 2). It was the desire to understand that led to the Fall. Intellectual pride and arrogance is the first and the last sin.

The business of preaching is not to ask people to understand; the commission of the preacher is to proclaim the message. And the message is that all are under the wrath of God until they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Excerpt from sermon: The Wrath of God 

young preacher Jones